There’s a certain kind of poetry in the repetition and simplicity of John 1 as the Gospel writer lays the groundwork for the world-bending story to follow. In today’s passage, we’re told directly that John was sent from God. There are no frills, no extra bits of information; nothing needs to be inferred or extrapolated. It’s direct and no-nonsense. But John wasn’t just sent from God. John was sent with a mission: to tell everyone that the light is coming. Each word works together to build anticipation for the coming of Jesus, which is a key characteristic of the Advent story.
However, the story of Advent and Jesus’ birth are familiar for many of us—so familiar that we often spend our time trying to make them more exotic to remind ourselves of the profound nature of the Incarnation. We create works of art and elaborate reworkings of these stories to remind ourselves that Jesus’ birth is not normal; it is paradigm-shattering.
The plain, understated way John’s Gospel opens up the story of Jesus might surprise us. The direct nature of the Gospel’s words are almost bracing; their simplicity prepares us to encounter the familiarity of God, who is always with us, and the profundity that God would become human and come to live among us.
John’s use of light as the symbol for Jesus further reveals this dichotomy. Like air or water, light is an ever-present aspect of our life. It’s so fundamental to our existence that we rarely contemplate its power or our inability to live our lives without it. John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus is both entirely familiar and profoundly essential to our lives.
God, allow us to hear the sharp, clear call of the Advent story and to encounter Jesus again, as if for the first time. Amen.
Isaiah speaks of the day in which God’s Anointed One (Messiah) will bring good news to the poor and hope to the oppressed. Jesus will later read this passage and declare it to be about himself (Luke 4), so we read Isaiah’s prophecy during Advent. The psalmist rejoices that God has restored the fortunes of the people. They have come through a period of difficulty, but God has brought them into a place of joy. Throughout Advent, we also look forward to such rejoicing. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray continually with an attitude of gratitude and rejoicing, and the God of peace will sustain them. In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist repeats the theme from last week—that he is merely the messenger to prepare the way for the Lord.
Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. God is coming. How do Isaiah’s words of praise and justice inspire you to act in response?
Read Psalm 126. How do you celebrate the justice that you have seen come to fruition while hoping for future justice? How does your anticipation of the fullness of justice affect your faith?
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. How can you return to the basics of faith during this Advent season?
Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. How is this Advent season both familiar and new for you? How might simple announcements of Jesus’ coming change your experience of the season?
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